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There are some days when I know exactly what my workout will look like — a run, my favorite HIIT class, or a round on my bike. And then there are other days when my overly organized self takes a back seat and I have no clue what to do to get my body moving.
For days like that, I often find myself craving movement and an endorphin release — I'm just not feeling my usual motivation. To help my future self feel armed for those "off days," I tapped three fitness experts to share the movements they turn to every day to build and maintain strength.
These movements are safe enough to complete each day, can be done with minimal equipment, and are great for sneaking in a workout even on those days when you simply have no clue what to do.
From Bryce Morris, Group Training Coordinator at Life Time, M.S. Exercise Science:
- Assume push-up position with forearms and toes on the floor. Your elbows should be stacked below your shoulders and your head should be looking at the floor.
- Engage your abdominal muscles, drawing your belly toward your spine and keep your back flat like a table.
- Hold for as long as you can.
- Start in a standing position with your feet shoulder-width apart.
- Squat down then place your hands flat on the ground.
- Kick your feet back, coming to a push-up position. Then bring your chest down to the floor.
- Come back up to a push-up position and jump your feet back to your hands
- Jump toward the ceiling, coming back to a standing position
Pro tip: "Burpees are a great total-body exercise," Morris said. "They burn a lot of calories and are a great 'bang for your buck' movement. They also help build strength and endurance. Embrace the burpees!"
Pull-ups (for those with a bar)
- Jump to grab the bar with your hands shoulder-width apart.
- While hanging from the bar, engage your core and shoulder blades.
- Pull yourself up to the bar leading with your chest and squeezing your shoulders together to prevent injury.
- Try to get your chin over the bar, then descend down with control.
- Start in standing position with your feet shoulder-width apart and your toes slightly angled, pointing to 10 o'clock and 2 o'clock.
- Place your hands over your head with your hands stacked over your shoulders and your elbows locked out passing the ears.
- While keeping your hands over your head and your arms locked out, descend into a full squat keeping your core tight and chest up, then come back to a standing position.
Pro tip: "Overhead squats are a great tester of dynamic flexibility, requiring mobility, stability and strength," Morris said. "This movement will help carry over to other exercises and everyday life. Challenge your limits!"
- Start with your feet hip-width apart, then place one foot out in front of you.
- Descend down, bending to where both legs are at 90 degrees and the back knee gently taps the ground.
- Keep your core engaged and in an upright position.
- Then ascend back up to standing with feet still in the same stationary position.
- Repeat and switch legs after completing each rep.
From Matthew Kite, Director of Education at D1 Training, CSCS:
World's greatest stretch
- Start in a straight-arm plank on the ground with your shoulders right over your hands and hips up in line.
- Keeping your hands on the ground, step one foot forward to the outside of the hand.
- Keep your back and body as long and straight as possible with the back leg staying straight and knee off the ground if able.
- Open up the spine by taking one hand up towards the sky stacked on top of your opposite hand that's still on the ground for stability.
- Make sure your eyes follow your hand reaching up as you slowly rotate. Pause at the end range of motion.
- Repeat rotation on the opposite side with the same leg up.
- Repeat both rotations with the opposite leg up on the other side of the body.
Pro tip: "To make [it] more dynamic and some added challenge, complete one push up in between switching legs," Kite said.
- Stand as if you were going to complete a lunge.
- Step and cross the left leg across the front of the body while keeping the torso facing forward as you perform a lunge. Try to keep the toes facing forward, challenging the angle of the lunge.
- Stand up and draw the right leg back to the starting position in a square stance and complete a squat.
- Repeat the same actions as step one except this time stepping behind your body rather than in front.
- Continue to alternate each forward and backward lunge step until you've reached five reps.
- Repeat going in both directions.
Stationary reverse inchworm
- Start in an arm-extended plank.
- Pike your hips up to the sky and get your heels flat to the ground bringing your head through "the window" between your shoulders.
- Keeping your palms flat on the ground, slowly walk your hands back toward your feet, keeping your knees as straight as possible until you reach your end range of motion (Note: It's important to keep some bodyweight balanced between the hands and feet and not transition all your weight to your feet at the end. Think: how far can I go with both hands and feet flat to the ground?)
- Hold the end range of motion for one to two seconds and slowly walk back out to your plank.
Pro tip: "The seemingly simple stationary exercise has a load of benefits targeting the core, hamstrings, glutes, lower back, and upper arms and shoulders," Kite said. "I don't do a warmup without completing a few reps of an inchworm."
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From Danny Saltos, Founder of Train With Danny, NASM certified:
- Lay your back on a flat surface.
- Bend your knees with your feet flat on the floor about hip-distance apart.
- Place your hands down by the sides of your hips.
- Keeping your head down, push through your heels and drive your hips up toward the sky.
- Pause when you have a straight line from your shoulders, hips, and knees.
- Squeeze your glutes during the motion and lower.
- Lay on your stomach on a flat surface.
- Hold your arms extended straight out on the floor (like you're flying).
- Gaze down at the floor and keep your toes pointed.
- Lift your arms and legs a few inches.
- Squeeze in your glutes, hamstrings, lower, middle, and upper back.
- Hold for two seconds.
- Release and lower towards the ground.
Pro tip: "Many of us spend countless hours on our phones, iPads, laptops, and whatever other device you can name," Saltos said. "The problem? We round our shoulders forward which in turn weakens our backs and leads to a plethora of structural issues. With this new movement you might just save yourself some back and neck issues."
Bonus workout: 30 minutes of walking
"Many of us forget that one of the easiest ways to stay toned and fit is by hitting 10,000 steps a day," Saltos said. "I have all my clients make sure that they hit their goal of 10,000 a day by going for a brisk walk around their neighborhood."
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